Fade to black

Hundreds of classic Lollywood films that should have been preserved are in danger of being lost forever.

Ali Usman May 14, 2011


Phollay Khan was a 1956 film that dealt with the theme of Pakistan’s integrity in a touching way. The film told the story of five friends from Sindh, Punjab, the then NWFP, Balochistan and East Pakistan. The friends buy a car together, but after having a clash they decide to part ways. The guy from East Pakistan lays claim to the wheels and takes them back, thus rendering the car useless. The film gave a message of unity to all of Pakistan: Live together to survive, otherwise the country will suffer. In 1971, East Pakistan became Bangladesh and the message of the film was proven correct.

Phollay Khan, wasn’t a hit at the box office, but film critics still consider it an important Lollywood film which isn’t available in the market now. The film is not the only one to be lost. Hundreds of Lollywood films that should have been preserved in film archives are not available due to the simple fact that nobody bothered to set up a film archive in Pakistan.

“Many young people here believe that Lollywood has always been the same, but this is not the case. We made films which were praised by the best Indian filmmakers of their time. New filmmakers and actors can still learn a lot from the old Lollywood films, and above all, these films are our national assets. Unfortunately, we didn’t make an archive to preserve our classical films,” said Aslam Dar, one of the finest and most senior of Lollywood’s filmmakers.

“Filmmakers cannot make film archives on their own. This should have been done by the state, but the problem is that nobody takes ownership of cinema here,” he complained.

Recalling the golden days of Lollywood, film critic Zahid Akkasi said that there were many Pakistani films that couldn’t do well in their time but were great examples of classical films. He said, “Few people know that the famous Urdu writer Mumtaz Mufti wrote a film which was directed by his friend, the writer Ahmad Bashir. The film was titled Neela Parbat and dealt with psychological problems pertaining to sex. The film was a flop, but could have been a big hit had it been made now. It should have been in film archives and filmmakers could learn from it.”

Akkasi also spoke of a classical film named Rohi made by W Z Ahmad, who came from Mumbai to Lahore to shoot the film. “There are films like Ishq-e-Laila that starred Sabiha and Santoosh Kumar, Tehzeeb whose songs were written by Habib Jalib, Zarqa, a film based on the struggle of the Palestinians and Ye Aman,  all of which should have been in the film archives but are now almost impossible to find. Only a few people have some of these films, while many prints of great movies kept rotting in film studios and no one has tried to save them,” Akkasi lamented.

Pehchan starring Zeba and Waheed Murad, Sassi starring Sudheer and Chaha Ghulam Muhammad, Malangi starring Akmal and Zareef, Umrao Jan Ada starring Rani and Alauddin are some of the best films that deserved to be preserved as representatives of Lollywood. Creating a film archive was a dream that couldn’t be realised in 65 years. Now Lollywood is not what it used to be, and we have nothing to remind us of what it was,” he said.

Some old Pakistani films are available with some film channels like Filmazia and Silver Screen. However, these are few in numbers.

He said that earlier it was difficult to keep a record of the films as it might take 10 to 15 boxes to pack the tape from one film. Now, however, digital mediums can easily do the job.

“Film archives cannot be developed unless filmmakers, studio owners and the government unanimously want to do so. We have lost many important films, but there are still records of some classical films present in the studios. They should be preserved and shifted on DVDs before it’s too late,” Akkasi said.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2011.


Jonaid Iqbal | 10 years ago | Reply You shoul contact Pakistan National Council of the Arts which is believed to have started a film archivs, as of decision taken last year. Yet this would only be a talk for the press becuase one sees no concret steps taken after the announcement was made. Last year, when I asked, former Cultural Scretary Moin Bukhari told me that recreating past films with digital help would cost a lot of money. he was hopeful to get the funds to do it. Did he succeed?.
ahmad butt | 10 years ago | Reply **SAD! SAD! really SAD! :'( so wanna watch "Phollay Khan" !**
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